1 Month Japan Cost – How to travel Japan on a Budget for under $1200

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Anyone who has ever been to Japan knows that traveling in Japan is anything but cheap. So often I have heard from people that they’d love to visit Japan but just don’t think it’s affordable for them to go.

Anyway, traveling Japan on a Budget is actually not that difficult if you keep a few simply tricks in mind. In order to show you how easy it is, we want to share our 1 month Japan cost with you in this article. (Yes, we kept a precise account!)

We really didn’t miss out on anything during our trip to Japan. We went to restaurants, had a beer in the evening and we admired all kinds of attractions. We even went to the Tokyo Sky Tree for just under € 20 per person. (In the end it wasn’t really worth it, but that’s another thing)

Thanks for this meme to The-Raven-of-Dark-Moon-Death on imgflip

Average travel costs in Japan per day

The average traveler in Japan spends about 115 € ($ 135) per day. If you are a backpacker or on a small budget, you usually spend between 45 and 50 € ($ 53 – 60) per day. We even managed to stay under 40 € ($ 47) per day on our trip. Later in this article, I will tell you step by step how we did it.

Our Japan Travel Cost (27 Days)

Total: 995.22 €/ $ 1.103.37 per Person

Author’s note: Of course, all listed expenses were made in the local currency (yen). The Japan prices are listed in Euros and USD only for better understanding. Any discrepancies are caused by rounding. Exchange rate status: May / June 2017. (Last update Euro to USD: December 2019)

All costs are per person.

Transport: 415.45 €/ $ 459.48

Breakfast: 23.43 € / $ 25.97

Lunch: 100.25 € / $ 111.14

Dinner: 112.87 € / $ 125.35

Water: 7.25 € / $ 8.03

Entrance & Activities: 74.99 € / $ 83.13

Random: 60.06 € / $ 66,58

Accommodation: 201.72 € / $ 223.64

Average Japan Cost per Day (27 Days)

Transport: 15.38 € / $ 17.05

Breakfast: 0.87 € / $ 0.96 (ca. 1.80 €/ $ 1.99 per breakfast)

Lunch: 3.71 €/ $4.11 (ca. 3.85 € / $ 4.26 per lunch)

Dinner: 4.18 €/ $ 4.63 (ca. 5.94 €/ $ 6.58 per dinner)

Water: 0.27 € / $ 0.29 (ca. 0.80 €/ $ 0.88 for 0,5 Liter)

Entrance & Activities: 2.78 € / $ 3.08

Random: 2.22 € / $ 2.46

Accommodation: 7.47 € / $ 8.28 (In average 33.62 € / $37.27 per night)

Our Daily Japan Budget per Day per City

Tokio: ca. 28.23 € / $ 31,29 per Day (Couchsurfing)

Magome: 68.70 € / $ 76.16 per Day

Matsumoto: ca. 18.27 € / $ 20.25 per Day (Couchsurfing)

Takayama: ca. 35.40 €/ $ 39.24 per Day (Hitchhiking)

Shirakawago & Kanazawa: ca. 37.15 € / $ 41.18 per Day (Couchsurfing)

Kyoto: ca. 33.49 € / $ 37.12 per Day (Couchsurfing & Hitchhiking)

Nara, Osaka & Koyasan: ca. 36.38 € / $ 40.33 per Day (We stayed with friends)

Hiroshima: ca. 30.99 € / $ 34.35 per Day (Couchsurfing)

Takamatsu: ca. 40.42 € / $ 44.81 per Day (High Transport cost to Takamatsu) (Couchsurfing)

Kazurabashi: ca. 41.55 € / $ 46.06 per Day (Day trip per Hitchhiking)

Japan Prices – What costs what

  • Budget accommodation (Private double room for 2) approx. $ 60 – 120 (50 – 100 €) per night
  • Budget accommodation bed in a hostel: from $ 19 (16 €) per night
  • Lunch cheap restaurant (menu): from $ 6 (5 €)
  • Dinner at a cheap restaurant: approx. $ 7 – 12 (6 – 10 €)
  • Dinner for 2 in a good restaurant: about $ 45 – 60 (40 – 50 €)
  • Dinner for 2 in an upscale restaurant: approx. $ 120 – 360 (100 – 300 €)
  • 1.5 liters of water in the supermarket: approx. $ 1.20 (1 €)
  • Bottle of wine in the convenience store: approx. $ 4 – 5 (3.5 – 5 €).
  • 0,5 l bottle of local beer in the restaurant: approx. $ 4 – 4 (3.50 – 5 €)
  • 0.5 l bottle of local beer in the supermarket: approx. $ 3 (2.50 €).
  • A bowl of ramen: $ 7 – 12 (6 – 10 €)

How to travel Japan on a Budget

miyajima island, Deer, Japan on a budget

Uff. That was a lot of numbers. Now you surely want to know how we managed to spend so little money. Here is a small summary.

Japan Transport on a Budget

Transport costs make up about 42 % of our whole costs in Japan. Quite a lot, right? It can be very difficult to keep your transportation costs as low as possible because they are just incredibly expensive in Japan. Here are a few tips on how you can still save a few Bucks transportation costs.

JR Pass

Most travelers in Japan choose the JR Pass to get from A to B in Japan. With this pass, you can use all means of transportation from JR free of charge for the selected days.

Make sure to check beforehand which routes are covered by JR. In Tokyo in particular, many routes are covered by other companies and therefore have to be paid for additionally. (There is a so-called Suiza card that you can use to pay for all railway companies. Simply top up money at the machine in every metro station and off you go. This saves a lot of time because you don’t have to buy a new ticket every time. You can get the Suizacard at Tokyo Station.)

For us, the JR Pass was not worth it at all, since it was usually much cheaper to travel by bus. So make sure to check and compare prices before your arrival in Japan.

More information on the JR Pass can be found here.

Bus

Buses in Japan are often the cheaper alternative to expensive train rides. Many routes are covered by buses and the buses are mostly of very good quality. Almost all buses have a toilet on board and there are stops at service stations every 2 hours.

Willer Bus Pass

In addition to the JR Pass for trains, foreigners can also buy a Willer Bus Pass before arriving. The principle is similar. You can choose a certain number of days on which you can use the Willer buses. Here the days are calculated based on the trips you take. That means days do not have to be contiguous.

Although we first decided on the Willer Bus Pass, we canceled it on-site because we had to cancel a planned day tour due to the bad weather and found that a route we wanted to take was not covered by our pass. Therefore, it was ultimately cheaper for us to book our buses separately. But it all depends on your chosen route.

Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking in Japan, Japan travel cost

Another option to save real money is hitchhiking. Japan is considered one of the safest countries in the world and the people of Japan are incredibly friendly. If you have enough time, you should definitely try it.

We hitchhiked almost 400 km during our trip to Japan and it was a great experience. If we had had more time, we would definitely have hitchhiked further distances. (Read here about our hitchhiking adventure in Kazurabashi)

Walk

Meme, Japan travel walking meme
Thanks for this meme to Rosabella_Auditore_Da_Frienz on imgflip

It actually sounds quite obvious, doesn’t it? The more you walk by yourself, the fewer transport costs you have to pay. You can save a lot of money, especially in cities. During our time in Tokyo and Osaka, we walked around 20 km every day. If the next destination is only 3 metro stations away, it can be very worthwhile to simply choose to walk.

Japan Food on a Budget 

Did someone say food meme
Thanks for this meme to mememaker. net

First of all, eating in Japan is not nearly as expensive as many blogs say. We were pleasantly surprised, as we had set our budget for around € 5 per meal per person. There are many ways to save a lot of money on food while traveling in Japan.

Convenience Stores

It’s hard to walk around Japan’s cities without passing by a 7/11 and Co. (and this can be taken literally). Many affordable dishes are offered here.

For breakfast, there are different types of pastries and sandwiches. You can even find fruit (Unfortunately, fruit in Japan seems to be priceless. Only bananas fit in our budget. Watermelons for € 20 apiece are not uncommon)

For lunch and dinner, you can find all kinds of dishes here. Simply slide it into the microwave when paying and you’re done. – Backpacker Heaven.

Affordable Restaurants

If you’ve had enough of convenience stores and microwaves, you can also eat at one of the many affordable restaurant chains. You can usually find the prices displayed outside. Many restaurants display plastic dishes in the shop windows so that you know what you are ordering. But many also have English menu cards.

You can find dishes starting at about $ 6/5 €. There are usually a lot of people in suits looking for a quick lunch during their lunch break. The quality and freshness of the dishes differ from restaurant to restaurant but generally correspond to our western standard.

Water

Staying hydrated while traveling is important. Saving money for water in Japan is very easy, though. The magic word is tap water. The tap water throughout the country is very clean and has drinking water quality. So just fill up the bottle before leaving the house and you’re done. Since drinking water in Japan is not exactly cheap, tap water is a real alternative that saves you a lot of money.

Entrance & Activities

Matsumoto castle, Japan Price entrance fees

Saving money is probably the most difficult thing when it comes to admission costs.
Many attractions offer student or group discounts. In the Edo Museum, we even received a couple-discount.
Otherwise, you can only check blogs you trust (maybe this one? *blink blink*) to see if the attraction is really worth the entrance fee. (Because a few times it was clearly not). Another option is to check the attraction you might want to see on Tripadvisor and see what other travelers are saying.

Japan Accommodation on a Budget

Couchsurfing

Saving money in Japan, Couchsurfing
Our lovely Host Family in Kanazawa

It’s time to Couchsurf. Couchsurfing is not quite as popular here as it is at home in Europe. But you can find Couchsurfers in many cities. Whereas in Europe, there are more younger people using the platform, in Japan, there are also older Couchsurfers or even whole families.

We had a little bit of everything. We slept in student apartments on the floor or with families in our own room, lived for four days in the unique Couchsurfing house in Kyoto (an entire house just for Couchsurfers – such a fun experience) and even had an entire flat for us in Hiroshima.

So if you look at the average price of our accommodations per night and consider that we spent 21 nights with Couchsurfers and friends, you can calculate that we might have saved about € 706.02 for accommodations.

But please don’t see Couchsurfing just as a way of saving money. Every day, I get requests from people who are only just looking for free accommodation that didn’t even take the time to read my profile.

Couchsurfing offers much more the opportunity to meet new people from other cultures, exchange ideas with them and to learn from them. Couchsurfing gave us the opportunity to get a much deeper insight into Japanese culture and to get to know different areas. (Student life, family life, life as an expat living in Japan, etc.) It was an incredible experience that you cannot book in any travel agency. And I can only recommend this to everyone.

Booking in advance

We Germans are known for planning everything in advance and being super organized. My way of traveling is usually completely different. I like to travel spontaneously and decide on the spot where to go, where to sleep and how long I stay.

In Japan, it was a bit different. Already two months before departure we set up a (worst case) budget (approx. 1200 €) and collected information about all the places we wanted to visit during our trip to Japan. We compared prices for various types of transport, accommodation, and activities and summarized everything in an Excel table.

Before we started we had a detailed plan with all our routes, accommodations and prices. So we weren’t as flexible anymore, but we were able to save a lot of money. And somehow it is nice to travel and to know exactly what to expect in the next place.

Bookings meme, Toy story
Thanks for this meme to Danhare10 on imgflip

We almost exclusively used Booking.com to book accommodation. It is super easy to use and thanks to the many reviews, you usually know what to expect. You can find accommodation for all types of Budgets. Give it a try. Find your accommodation here.

Flights

Through my studies (I have a University degree in Tourism Management) and personal experience, I have been able to collect a few tricks in recent years to find the cheapest flights. For our flight from Barcelona to Tokyo (with 13 hours transit in Moscow. You can read about it here) we only paid 288.89 €. I will shortly publish a post with all my tips that helped a friend save a good € 200 on her flight. Click here to read the post.

But here’s a little tip. As a rule, the cheapest flight is approx. 6 weeks before departure (excluding early booking offers) on a Sunday or Monday morning. Set your browser to incognito mode, delete your cookies.

Note, however, that this is only general information. Each airline has its own algorithm, and there are often large deviations from the rule, especially with low-cost carriers.

I usually find my flights with Skyscanner.com

Simply a great platform that always shows me the cheapest flight. Give it a try. You are also welcome to test other flight comparison sites and compare prices.

Random Expenses in Japan

Alcohol

Alcohol in Japan is much more expensive than we know from Europe. So if you want to go out for a drink, expect to spend a little more.

It becomes cheaper if you buy a bottle of sake or beer in the supermarket and have a drink with your hosts or in the park. But if you follow all the tips and tricks to save money during your trip to Japan, you can treat yourself to a drink or two with a clear conscience. 😉 (Sake and Japanese plum wine (mixed with mineral water) should definitely be tried)

Sim Card

Anyone who is traveling in naturally wants to stay mobile. But it is already clear at the airport that a SIM card and mobile internet are not for free. Of course, it is practically always available, no matter where you are. But is it really necessary to buy a sim card in Japan?

Our tip: In our experience, a Japanese SIM card is not necessary. Almost every convenience store offers free wifi for up to two hours a day. You can also find wifi in most accommodations, in many metro stations, and in enough restaurants and cafes. So there is always a way to google something, check WhatsApp or similar in about five minutes. The easiest way to connect to free wifi is the Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi app.

If you want to have a GPS map to get your bearings, just try maps.me. This app works similar to Google Maps but is completely offline. Super practical. And on this trip, this app saved us several times from getting lost.

We didn’t buy a SIM card and we didn’t miss it.

about-the-author

Die AutorinVicki

Hi, wir sind Vicki und Eduardo. Hier kannst du uns begleiten auf unserem Weg durch die verschiedensten Orte und Wunder dieser Welt. Wir helfen dir Geld zu sparen bei unbezahlbaren Reiseabenteuern und geben dir wertvolle Tipps mit auf den Weg. Lass uns zusammen reisen!

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Abonniere uns!

17 thoughts on 1 Month Japan Cost – How to travel Japan on a Budget for under $1200

  1. I love these kind of posts!! Budget travel is something I need to work on and this post was so helpful thanks!! 🙂 Saving it for when I go to Japan!

    Reply
  2. I’ve always wanted to visit Japan but have always been put off by the cost – this had been really helpful in opening my eyes, it certainly looks achievable with a bit of planning! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. I love your post, I love how you have broken the expenses down, by destination as well. Really helpful for a budget traveller like me. My theory is the more you budget the longer you can travel. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
  4. This is so funny that I’m reading this because I just told someone yesterday that I don’t want to visit Japan because it’s too expensive ?. These are awesome tips and I’m definitely saving this post for if/when I go. So good to know about the buses because I know trains are insanely expensive there! Thanks for all of the info!

    Reply
  5. Awesome post… Definitely helpful.

    I’m looking to spend 4 days in Akihabara Tokyo this year, And I was wandering if it’s possible for me to go for $1200 counting the flight?? $1500 is the max that I can spend.

    I live in Houston Texas USA

    Reply
  6. Hey Vicki!
    Did you apply for Couchsurfing in advance also?
    Im travelling Japan for 1 month, 20 days on Okinawa and 10 days from kagoshima -> Tokyo. We booked all of our stay in Okinawa, and Tokyo, but nothing else..
    Love your post, It’s very helpfull!
    Best regards,
    Sofie

    Reply
    • Hi Sofie,

      thank you so much for your comment! Yes, we applied around 1 month beforehand, because Japanese are usually pretty organized and like to know whether someone is coming in advance. 🙂 We didn’t have time to see Okinawa during our stay in Japan, but I’ve heard it’s super beautiful. Enjoy!

      Reply
  7. Hi! Thank you for this post, it was very useful, we are now in Cambodia and then in a few weeks going to Japan so I’m a bit afraid of the expenses since here is so cheap!
    My name is also Vicky, my husband is german and we meet also through couchsurfing in Barcelona six years ago haha what are the odds?!? 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Vicky,

      That’s truly crazy how much we have in common! Would love to meet you guys one day 😀 We did it exactly the other way around. We went to Japan first and afterwards to Cambodia, so we didn’t get used to cheap prices before going to Japan haha

      Reply

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